With Ryan having a wonderful time experiencing the international wine scene from the comfort of our own cellar in the USA, I took it upon myself to tackle Lenndevour’s Wine Blog Wednesday for myself, which so happens to be on biodynamic wines and hosted by Fork and Bottle.
Allow me to begin this post by stating that prior to this article, I honestly didn’t know a considerable amount about biodynamic wine, nor had I bought this type of wine the few times I’d come across it. Additionally, I’ve never had the opportunity to compare an organic wine next to a biodynamic wine, nor biodynamic/organic next to a chemical based wine. I can officially declare that this was my first effort in hitting the pavement in search of a biodynamic Iberian wine.
Unfortunately, time was of the essence in obtaining a wine for this post. Being that I arrived back from the US last week and had spent all Saturday hiking in Vall de Nuria, an absolutely impressive valley in the Pyrenees, I was left with Sunday. And as many of you have experienced in the US, Sundays are not the ideal wine shopping days here in Spain. Either you remember to purchase your wine on Saturday, or you can kiss your much anticipated tasting on Sunday goodbye. Making matters worse, Monday was filled with late meetings, leaving me one day to find, purchase and taste an interesting biodynamic Iberian wine. Mind you, this is no easy task in Terrassa, Spain. The majority of our wine stores have been limited to food stores that carry quasi-decent selections, unless we embark on a one hour train ride to Barcelona.
Not being one to give up so easily to a challenge though, I made a beeline to our best chance of getting this type of wine, our local wine shop / food store. Knowing full well that I would need some help, I asked the “official” wine connoisseur of the store, an older reserved gentleman who wanders the aisles in a gray three-piece suit with an expression to match, whether they had any biodynamic wines.
“You want what?”, he asked with one eyebrow and one side of his mouth raised in utter confusion.
“Ah, I was wondering if you had any biodynamic wines?”
“We have some organic wines. Actually, we have one. Do you want it?”
“No”, I say praying to God his young friendly employee from Argentina would magically come out of the backroom so that I wouldn’t feel so scrutinized, because the last thing I want to do is explain to this guy what biodynamic means and the differences between organic and biodynamic in Spanish.
“Well, if you don’t want organic, what do you want?” as his Catalan accent swirled with his Spanish words.
How do I translate this!? The process of explaining biodynamic in English versus organic wine is difficult enough in my native language, but to add the feat of translation was beyond difficult. Plus, I only had a few hours before all the stores closed, potentially leaving me empty-handed and without an article.
“Well, you know how we put lots of chemicals in the soil? Biodynamic winemaking means that you don’t do that. You pay attention to the phases of the moon and the sun, adding natural products to the soil when needed. Organic, basically means that you can only use X amount of chemicals in order for the crop be labeled ‘organic’.”
Now take a moment to imagine how this old school Rioja drinking wine seller was looking at me. If I could have had three heads and beard while dancing the Polka, I most likely would have had better results.
“We don’t have that kind of wine.” Period. That’s it. End of story.
He walked away from me with a clear signal that I had offended thee. I began to fear the worst, he was right; they didn’t have any biodynamic wine. As far as I’m aware, the market for biodynamic wines has not hit the Iberian market, nor do I think it will. Why? Because why would it? There’s no commercial market to buy organic, biodynamic or otherwise. You already have your family meat market, fruit shop, cheese vendor and wine store, and every one of these guys are intimately familiar as to where they got their food. Most likely, it is from a nearby village or province in Spain. And although chemicals are as commonly used in Spain, as they are in the rest of the EU, I’ve never heard of anyone fearing them in their produce, meat or other consumable goods. The term biodynamic would only be effective if it was considered to be the best by those worthy, such as Rioja wineries. The name in turn would be passed on by word of mouth in a matter of seconds – a form of communication I believe Spaniards love best.
We recently did an article as to whether or not Spaniards give a damn about wines made outside of Rioja. To be more accurate, the question would be whether or not Spaniards care about anything not “labeled” Rioja. I would like to bet my soul on the fact that they have no idea what other wines, grapes or regions exist. Whatever is placed in front of them, they appear to be happy with having faith that no matter what the wine is, if it’s Spanish, it’s good; but rarely have we heard someone seek out a wine outside of Rioja. Hence, the chance that one would actually request a “biodynamic” or “organic” wine would be as likely as someone asking for a wine from the Balearic Islands, not likely going to happen.
Alas, I finally found our Argentinean friend who was stacking boxes in the corner of the store. He secretly pointed me to a wine shop he had worked at before, making me swear that I wouldn’t speak to a soul about who had sent me there. Evidently, his position at the wine/food store isn’t as secure as I would have imagined. Talk about making my night more interesting! Not only had I learned about a wine shop existing not blocks away from this one, but on top of that, I had taken an oath of silence. I felt like a secret wine spy toting a wine opener on one hip and a tasting notebook on the other. Stand back!
Bags in hand, I traipsed along the windy streets to the largest wine shop I had encountered in Terrassa, which honestly isn’t saying much, and stepped inside. Sadly, upon questioning the employees, only one of six knew as to whether they possessed a biodynamic wine – a word they were equally unfamiliar with.
Does this prove my point that no one here knows what biodynamic is? I would assume that there are several people in geeky wine circles who might be able to talk your ear off about the practice, but I doubt your average store employee knows much about it or goes out of their way to sell it. I doubt even less if your average wine consumer has even heard the word.
“Yeah, follow me!” excitedly boasted an employee who looked as casual and open as they come. If you wanted to be sold an unfamiliar wine, he didn’t look the most professional, but he had a demeanor that could sell you a used bar of soap. Hence, I happily followed him knowing that even if I had to pay 100 Euros, I wasn’t going to leave without one biodynamic Iberian wine in hand.
“I visited this Bodega last year when it was created, and I have to say, it was amazing. Not only is Sarah Perez, the winemaker at Mas Martinet and Cims de Porrera, incredible, but she has joined with her partner Rene Barbier to form Bodegas Venus la Universal out of Falset. Sara is an incredible person and someone who really wants to bring winemaking back to the earth. I loved my visit with her and I truly hope that I can get back there this year just to see her. Her wines are 100 percent Biodynamic and absolutely fantastic. I know you’ll love it.”
One can’t get a speech like this and turn it down. So, I purchased the 2004 Dido for a reasonable 10.99 Euros. A blend of Merlot, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon, I skipped home with the bottle in hand feeling as if I hand feeling quite pleased that I had both kept my oath of silence, in addition to finding a biodynamic wine. Assuming that it was truly biodynamic, which honestly I don’t know because it’s neither listed on the bottle, nor can I find a peep of it anywhere on the web. Please forgive me if I am wrong on this, but according to this gentleman’s recounting of her winemaking techniques, it sounds as if we’ve got a winner.
A dark inky purple core fades to the brilliant clear red, showing its youthful age. On the nose, incredible aromas of black cherry, lavender and raisin that seem to linger, tantalizing me to continually go back for another go. Incredibly concentrated and layered aromas. After a few moments, I begin to get more mushroom on the nose, nudging the cherry aromas back to second chair. On the palate…wow, I’m sold. It’s like sipping on silk soaked in black cherries. There is absolutely nothing jarring or jagged about this wine. The structure is perfectly balanced with medium body and light tannins. There’s a slight sweet sensation at the very end of the finish reminding me of a light Port. I’m curious to see what comes of it in a few hours, or even tomorrow, but for now, I’ll be happy to give it 4 and a half grapes. This is impressive considering the wines I’ve tried recently have been tossed down into the cooking pile.
In summary, I don’t feel entirely qualified to tell you whether I prefer a biodynamic wine, a wine made from biodynamic grapes in a “modern” winery, or non-organic/non-biodynamic wine. However, this has given me the impetus to seek out more biodynamic wines in conjunction with organic ones. I am officially intrigued as to the differences between biodynamic, organic and chemical based wines!